26 Apr 2018

Children who change schools a lot have lower NCEA pass rates - report

8:15 am on 26 April 2018

A Treasury working paper shows children who change schools a lot have lower NCEA pass rates and more problems with truancy and suspensions than those who do not.

A file photo shows university students studying for an exam

Photo: 123RF

The report on student mobility said students born in 1998 who went to five or more schools between the ages of eight and 14-years-old had an NCEA level 1 achievement rate of 57 percent.

Those who changed schools no more than three times in that period, had a pass rate of 90 percent.

It said the 'high mobility' students were also much more likely to leave school early and have truancy, stand-downs and suspensions recorded.

"While 2.6 percent of all students left school before 16 years, 10.6 percent of the most mobile students did so. While 9 percent of all students had an episode of truancy recorded in the national data before their 15th birthday, 43 percent of the most mobile students did so," the report said.

The working paper did not include "structural shifts", such as when children moved from primary to intermediate or secondary school, in its count of school moves.

It said Māori students were much more likely to change schools often, and high mobility was associated with factors including lower family incomes, younger mothers, and parents who were on benefits.

Schools needed to transfer information about transient students quickly and effectively, it said.

However, a separate Education Review Office report this week warned the exchange of information when students moved schools was "a major weakness" in the school system.

"Sharing of information between schools to support transient students is limited," the ERO report said.

"When students move to a new school, few arrive with assessment information their teacher can assess immediately."

The principal of Titahi Bay North School and principals' representative on the executive of the Educational Institute, Colin Tarr, said the report showed some children were moving schools more than eight times within 10 years.

"That's very, very worrying, but it's not surprising. I see it day in, day out in schools that I've been principal of," he said.

"When a child has got that level of transience the ability to make and sustain academic progress is very very compromised."

Mr Tarr said transferring data about children was vital, but often difficult when families removed children from school suddenly and re-enrolled them elsewhere with no notice.

"The ability of those schools to connect and to pass through essential information is compromised and often doesn't occur. The other thing too that we find is that when a child moves schools quite frequently schools, often with the best will in the world, will transfer information that they hold, but it's a very incomplete picture."

Transient children should be covered by special needs resourcing and they would be better served if every school had a fully-funded special needs coordinator, Mr Tarr said.

Secondary Principals' Association president Mike Williams said moving schools severely disrupted students' learning and without good data it was hard for schools to keep children up to speed.

"There are cases where a school just starts to work out where a student is at to target learning appropriately for them and then they move and the next school starts again," he said.

"Those interruptions, the progress is severely hampered."

The Treasury report said decile one schools had an average annual student turnover rate of 51 percent, compared to 22 percent at the average decile 10 school.

In addition, 20 percent of the children at decile one schools were highly mobile, compared to just 4 percent of children in decile 10 schools, the report said.

Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said decile-based funding was not enough to help schools in poor communities help transient children.

"Our schools are under-funded anyway, so for those schools who are having high levels of transience, I believe that they need further funding and this report does support that," he said.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the government had asked the Education Ministry to develop an action plan for non-attendance, non-enrolment and frequent school changes.

"This will allow a better understanding of what drives these issues, the barriers to effectively addressing them, to support us to identify potential improvements across the schooling system," Mr Hipkins said.

"The action plan is in its early stages and is working towards Budget 2019."

Mr Hipkins said many of the drivers of chronic school mobility were outside the direct control of the education system and addressing the problem could include solutions such as affordable housing, secure rental accommodation, and policies to promote economic security in the form of better paying and more secure jobs.

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